Kamali From Nadukkaveri Movie Review: Dearth of entertainment drowns this well-intentioned drama
This message film has its heart in the right place, but is that enough to make an engaging movie?
Remember the famous "Dho inga iruku da America. Kelambi po!" that father Suriya says in Vaaranam Aayiram? If that father-son conversation is tweaked into an exchange between two high-school girls and America is replaced by IIT, you'll get the gist of Kamali from Nadukkaveri. Anandhi, who began her search for Prince Charming by singing, "En aala parka poren," in Kayal, continues the hunt for her 'aal' in this film too. She can probably play naive roles in her sleep now, given the number of innocent roles she has essayed so far. Her Kamali is no exception, but the actor convincingly sells this textbook 'cute' role, without overdoing it. The story actually starts with her as an 11th grader, and Anandhi looks and acts the part with ease.
Director: Rajasekar Duraisamy
Cast: Anandhi, Rohit Saraf, Prathap Pothen, Srija
Director Agathiyan had mentioned, in his interaction with me, that he named the female lead in Kadhal Kottai Kamali because her character is modelled after a lotus which seeks the sun. The same could be said of Kamali too. The journey of the protagonist is triggered by love, but the 'want' here is terribly shallow. The small-town Kamali falls head-over-heels for a state topper who she sees on TV and decides to enter IIT to get close to him. One might argue that love-at-first-sight is a valid trope. When Kaakha Kaakha's Maaya fell for Anbu Chelvan or cupid struck Mouna Ragam's Divya, we got to saw the men through their eyes and it felt right, but, in Kamali from Nadukkaveri, Rahul just exists. There aren't even those flowery over-the-top frames suggesting why she finds him charming. Director Rajsekar almost succeeds in masking this flaw by giving us a satisfactory episode of Kamali's preparation to clear the herculean entrance exams, despite hailing from a remote, resourceless village.
The issues start right after Kamali comes to Chennai. The film's novel commentary on the inherent discrimination in conservative families and the lack of opportunities in small towns vanishes and it suddenly gets reduced to an overlong college ad. While I was eager to find out how Kamali would fight her homesickness, lack of parental support, and linguistic barriers in an urban college, Rajasekar conveniently turns a blind eye to all this and makes every character onscreen chant the magic word 'IIT'. If you are given a rupee every time a character says the institution's name, you are sure to go home with a handsome amount.
This is also the kind of universe where the bad guys speak English and the good ones don't. And how does one find out whether these baddies have turned a new leaf? It's simple: they start speaking Tamil! These not-so-friendly characters feel so under-written, alien, and sometimes, unintentionally funny.
The transformation of Kamali into a studious person in the latter half, which is supposed to make her look driven and ambitious, turns out to be nerd worship. Even when a friend asks her to take a break and have some social life, Kamali replies that she has Albert Einstein and Thomas Alva Edison for company pointing at the stack of books near her. Her stream, incidentally, is computer science.
Kamali from Nadukkaveri's central theme is undoubtedly well-intentioned. But all the blemishes in the writing and making eat away at the entertainment quotient of the film. This film could have very well been a message-movie like Vidhi. The strong content and solid making of the Mohan-Poornima-starrer created such huge ripples among educators that school children were taken to the theatres to watch it. But here, Kamali's intentions and vision only get hazier as the film progresses, ultimately diluting the subject it wants to explore.